Closing Doors

Sometimes Gladness by Bruce Dawe

Bruce Dawe, born in Geelong in 1930, is one of Australia’s most acclaimed poets. He drifted through his early years, showing promise but never quite realising his potential. His many roles in these years - as a labourer, postman, university failure, air force officer, father and teacher – gave him a keen sense of empathy for people of diverse backgrounds. This capacity to see the world from an ordinary bloke’s point of view is a hallmark of his poetry and undoubtedly a key to his popularity. The collection set for study, Sometimes Gladness, covers Dawe’s work from the 1950s to the 1990s, and is a tribute to the everyday: everyday beings, everyday things, everyday issues.

Several critics see the ‘Australianess’ of Sometimes Gladness as its outstanding unifying feature. In terms of the context Identity and Belonging, many of Dawe’s poems explore aspects of our cultural identity. Where many Australian poets in the past focused on the bush in their attempts to define the quintessential Australia/n, Dawe focuses on the places where most of us live – the suburbs of the big cities that hug the coast. His exploration of this aspect of our identity celebrates the ways in which the suburbs bring us comfort and security on the one hand, but also examines the negatives of suburban life. ‘Homo Suburbiensis’ is Dawe’s homage to the Australian species ‘suburban man’. Unlike the figures in John Brack’s painting, Collins St., 5.00p.m.,


Dawe’s suburban man whilst ‘ordinary’ and ‘average’, is nonetheless a spiritual individual – a person whose soul has been shaped by the complexities of life. In the quiet and security of his backyard veggie patch he offers up ‘as much as any man can offer / - time, pain, love, hate, age, war, death, laughter, fever.’ In ‘Suburban Lovers’ the world of suburbia is presented as a supportive framework to the lovers
– as a force that almost cocoons them. Even the physical infrastructure of the suburbs is...